Friday, November 28, 2008

Cardboard bankrobbers

Recall this story from the summer: Vancouver police unveil cardboard cops
The idea is to put life-size cardboard cutouts of police officers holding radar guns on the side of the street. People think they are real cops and so they slow down.
Well, in New Jersey, a cardboard figure of a person inside a Somerset County bank kept police at bay for 90 minutes:
Authorities tried to make contact with whoever might be in the building. Officers used bullhorns, and then tried to call inside the building, Forrest said.

After failing to get any response from the figure inside, the SWAT team entered.

To their chagrin, they discovered the "person" seen inside the building was a full-size cardboard figure, Forrest said.

It's clear that the only reasonable response is to ban cardboard.

Monday, November 24, 2008


British Columbia knows how to do optimism right. We're world leaders in optimism. If only we could bottle it up and export it, we'd be even more sheltered from the worldwide financial crisis than we already are. The Globe and Mail on the weekend: Vancouver Games to face money hurdles, CEO says
... B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen said yesterday that some Canadian economists are forecasting an economic recovery in late 2009 or early 2010.

"If that scenario plays out, the fact that we're hosting the Games in February of 2010 couldn't be a better opportunity for the world to celebrate," he said. "If consumer confidence is starting to rebound in late 2009, then I think the Games couldn't be better timed for us and better positioned for us to be attracting the attention of the world."

Some Canadian economists. Hmmmm. I have a feeling that these economists are from British Columbia. Because there's one Canadian economist who is not so optimistic. In fact he thinks it would be premature to speculate on that kind of a timeline. And the timeline he does not want to speculate on is less optimistic than whoever the f**k Hansen is talking to (unless late 2009 can be considered to be mid-2010. Come on BC, get on it!)

The Globe and Mail today: [A Canadian economist] ponders 'unprecedented fiscal stimulus'

In contrast to [a Canadian economist's] gloomy outlook, the APEC summit of 21 Pacific Rim countries concluded Sunday with a declaration that the global financial crisis can be overcome in 18 months -- by mid-2010.

"We are convinced that we can overcome this crisis in a period of 18 months," reads a line added to the joint statement released earlier in the weekend. No explanation was given for the change, and the optimistic prediction prompted skepticism from some summit participants and economists.

[A Canadian economist] said the line came at the behest of Peruvian President Alan Garcia, chair of this year's summit.

Asked what he thought about the prediction, [the Canadian economist] replied: "We're obviously entering ... a period of severe slowdown in economic growth with deflationary pressures, particularly in the industrialized world. And I think it would be premature to speculate on that kind of a timeline."

That kind of talk doesn't help, sir. Perhaps this economist is not aware that it is possible to golf in the morning, go sailing in the afternoon, and then ski in the evening in Vancouver. Yeah, that's right: golf, sail, and ski on the same day. And as that link also mentions: Major industries [in Vancouver] include technology, tourism, finance and real estate. Last time I checked, all of those industries were doing just fine, thank you very much.

Friday, November 14, 2008

iPod Killer!

According to this piece by Kevin Maney the iPod is doomed:

Hauling around thousands of songs on a hand-held device or computer hard drive just so you can listen to your favorites will soon feel overly extravagant and cumbersome, like keeping a cow so you can eat your favorite cheese.

Instead, we'll get music from "the cloud" -- technically, "somewhere on the internet, but who cares as long as it shows up when I press this button." We'll have access to a service that holds every song ever recorded, letting us listen to anything, anytime, from any device.

Sounds great! I never saw it coming. Who knew that the fabled iPod Killer would turn out to be The Cloud?

Fortunately in this bright fiture, no one will ever want to use their CloudMusicDevice in the following situations:

  • On an airplane
  • On the subway
  • When the power goes out
  • Inside a Faraday cage

Remember this day, folks. Or the dateline of the column (sometime in October 2008). It's when it became clear that The Cloud would kill the iPod.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Explain that to me

Michael Lewis ( The End [of Wallstreet]
The second company for which Eisman was given sole responsibility was Lomas Financial, which had just emerged from bankruptcy. "I put a sell rating on the thing because it was a piece of shit," Eisman says. "I didn't know that you weren't supposed to put a sell rating on companies. I thought there were three boxes -- buy, hold, sell -- and you could pick the one you thought you should." He was pressured generally to be a bit more upbeat, but upbeat wasn't Steve Eisman's style. Upbeat and Eisman didn't occupy the same planet.

That is the kind of honesty and adherence to solid principles you should want in an employee. You should want an employee that is capable of examining the facts at hand and using his or her domain expertise to draw a reasonable conclusion. There is a lot of pressure, though, to be empathetic and to try to figure out what your boss or other superior expects for an answer to any given question, and then to give that answer.

Boss: How long is this project going to take?
Employee: About two months.
Boss: *furrowed brow*
Employee: About a month?
Boss: *furrowed brow*
Employee: Two weeks?
Boss: *smile* Great! Bye!

Both Daniel and Moses enjoyed, immensely, working with Steve Eisman. He put a fine point on the absurdity they saw everywhere around them. "Steve's fun to take to any Wall Street meeting," Daniel says. "Because he'll say 'Explain that to me' 30 different times. Or 'Could you explain that more, in English?' Because once you do that, there's a few things you learn. For a start, you figure out if they even know what they're talking about. And a lot of times, they don't!"

This guy is my new hero. My new phrase of choice is Can you explain that to me?

Economic signs

Financial Post: Bankruptcy 'distinct possibility' for Nortel, analysts predict
Nortel's decision to eliminate another 1,300 jobs earlier this week, which included several senior positions, is expected to save approximately US$190-million in annual costs next year. However, National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson said the cuts would have been deeper if the company had the capital to pay for additional severance costs.
Nortel doesn't have enough money to lay everybody they want to.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yahoo! Answers

If you've ever looked at anything at all at Yahoo! Answers and wondered how the questions and answers could be so ridiculously stupid, wonder no more.

If your question contains standard punctuation it helpfully suggests that you edit it, presumably to remove said punctuation.


One thing that I really like about Barack Obama is that he is very fit and trim. I mean, it's obvious that he has a lot of discipline. To me that speaks volumes and implies a lot about his character in general.